The Motherloot Blog: Product Reviews

Review: New Carnival Games

One thing I remember as I kid is going to the 4H fair with my parents and being tempted by those enormous stuffed animals by the carnival games. You always saw them hanging, but you never saw anyone win one. That should have been my first clue that there was something fishy about the games.

Flash forward to when we got the first Carnival Games for Wii. The controls were difficult and some of the games nearly impossible. An accurate interpretation of those childhood memories, but for some reason, we just kept on playing. This sort of masochistic behavior is best left for therapy sessions.

So when the sequel, New Carnival Games: Return to the Midway arrived, we thought we were in for more tears and controller throwing. Fortunately for all involved, there have been improvements. Yes, some of the games are quite difficult, but these are balanced by others that are enjoyable to all ages

The overall concept to the game is the same as the first. You create a custom character, play games to earn tickets and virtual prizes, and then redeem tickets for crazy clothes for your character to wear. That’s all there is to it, but for a game aimed at younger kids the silly hats are enough motivation to keep on trying for those tickets.

You’ll play games of the same style you would expect to see at a fair: skeeball, make baskets in a moving hoop, bag tossing, and shooting targets. These are similar to what the first game offered, but the controls seemed a little easier and less frustrating this time around. What really sets this second game apart are the more unusual activities. The family favorite is the haunted house, when gives you a first-person perspective as you aim for and shoot targets on ghosts that pop up. The other would be the tractor pull which, being from Indiana, is something I’ve witnessed in person. This version has all the fun and none of the ear-bleeding.

Overall, the game is aimed at younger kids starting around first grade. Though older kids would enjoy most of the games the first few times, I don’t think it would hold their interest over the long term. If your kids enjoyed the first version of this game, the new one is certainly worth a try.

Suggested Retail Price: $37.99

Website For More Details: New Carnival Games

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers.

Pikmin Wii Game

pikminWe had the chance to review a rather interesting new game for the Wii called Pikmin recently. It’s a remake of a game that came out way back in 2001, so if your kids played that one, there’s not a lot different for them this time around.

The concept is simple: A little guy has crash landed on a planet and the parts of his ship are scattered everywhere. He’s about 2 inches high, so it’s not like he can just walk over and pick up the pieces. The environment is like something out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where a small rock is a mountain of an obstacle and simple bugs are monsters.

Luckily, you quickly find help in your quest, and it’s what this game is all about. There’s these little seed creatures that apparently think of you as their mother and will blindly follow you wherever you go. You direct them to create more creatures, tear down obstacles, and battle bugs on your hunt for parts of your ship. There are 3 different types that you can direct, each with their own capabilities and you have to figure out how to leverage them to gain access to different areas of the world.

The crux of the game is to figure out what needs to be done to find the next part of your ship. What makes that difficult is the time limit the game imposes on you. You have 30 game days to gather what you need before your air supply runs out and you apparently die some horrible death. Each day is about 15 minutes long, so you need to get whatever you plan on doing done in that amount of time.

This is what can make the game frustrating for kids who oftentimes just want to explore and have fun. If you really want to make progress, you’ll have to hit the ground running and solve puzzles as fast as you can. Otherwise, it will be impossible to complete it within the time given. If you do really screw up one of the days, you can go back to a previous day and try again, but it would have been nice if the game allowed more freedom for the kids just to do whatever they want. Furthermore, you don’t have much area to explore unless you do make progress, so you’ll get extremely tired of seeing the same blades of grass and flowers if you’re just looking to explore.

The kids did enjoy the fact how everything was giant and got a kick out of directing a mob of 100 creatures around (which really is fun for a while), but quickly grew frustrated when they couldn’t proceed past certain points in the time given. I think without the time limits, they would have been able to think about and try different tactics, but ever-present push to make progress all the time took some fun out of it. In the end, it’s a cute and unique concept, but younger kids will probably need assistance in the difficult parts or they’ll quickly abandon it.

Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

Website For More Details: Pikmin Wii Game

Mario Power Tennis

mario-power-tennisAs fans of tennis on Wii Sports, we were pretty excited about trying out Mario Power Tennis. In this game, you get to play as one of several classic Nintendo characters, each with their own specialty and moves. Some are good at smashing power shots, some are good and defense, some are good at trick shots. Depending on your style of play, there’s an alter-ego just for you.

The play is straightforward. You swing your Wii remote just like a racket  to hit the ball. How you swing affects what the ball does, just like in real tennis. You can hit short shots, soaring volleys, or put spin to try and trip up your opponent.

These normal hits aren’t why it’s called Mario Power Tennis. Every few hits you’ll have a chance to unless a Power hit unique to your character. You’ll be able to reach balls otherwise out of reach by employing a number of ridiculous tricks (think throwing your racket like a boomerang or using a vacuum). If the ball is close, you’ll unleash a more difficult return. The different moves certainly don’t make for a realistic experience, but do make it easier to win matches that would probably last a half hour otherwise.

There’s also a variety of courts to play on, from the standard grass and clay to those in haunted mansions or surrounded by lava. In normal matches or tournaments, they don’t make a whole lot of difference other than distracting you from your total domination of those that stand in your way. When you win tournaments, you unlock harder tournaments as well as new characters and power moves. There are disappointingly few new characters to win however, so there won’t be a lot of variety after a while. Like most games like this, there are various side challenges to complete that test your skills. These have various levels of difficulty, but the kids won’t have much trouble beating most of them in a day.

Overall, the concept is a fun one, but I think it would get repetitive after a while. As your character gets to perform a power move every 5 hits or so, you’ll be seeing the same cut scene over and over again. The controls don’t always register like they should and you’ll find a flick of the wrist is easier (and safer) than trying to replicate Agassi’s movements. On the harder levels you’ll find it very difficult to score and it would better if you had easier ways of hitting the ball away from your opponent instead of right to them.

Suggested Retail Price: $27.99

Website For More Details: Mario Power Tennis

Animal Crossing: City Folk (Nintendo Wii)

Animal CrossingWhen I heard we’d have a chance to test drive Animal Crossing: City Folk, I was excited. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Animal Crossing series and there are a lot of people who really enjoyed the previous titles. I had heard it was sort of like a simplified version of The Sims, which I was crazy about, so we sat down as a family and dove right in.

The basis of the game is you arrive in a town full of animal characters, make friends, and settle into daily life. Your first tasks are designed to familiarize yourself with how things work and to purchase your own home (complete with mortgage, of course). You get a part time job to help things along, but are quickly left to your own destiny. The game is completely open-ended and progresses in real time. When it is morning, it’s morning in the game. If you play at night it’s, wait for it… nighttime in the game! What’s also fun is the seasons in the game reflect those in real life as well, complete with changing leaves in fall and snow in winter.

Your daily activities are up to you, but they don’t vary all that much. They center largely around acquiring things you can sell for “bells”, which are the game’s currency, so that you can buy stuff. This stuff includes such things as outfits for your character and items for your home. Once you pay off that mortgage, you can add onto your home, making more room for more stuff. Not all that different than how we tend to live our own lives, huh?

There are several ways to acquire items that you can sell for money, I mean bells, in the game. You can fish, catch bugs, shake the dickens out of trees so they give up their fruit, or rip flowers out of your neighbors’ lawns under the cover of darkness, or in broad daylight (just because animals can talk doesn’t mean they’re smart). As for occupying your free time, you can talk to your animal friends, visit various attractions around town, or plant your own flowers, that you then have to water or they die. Special events occur once in a while and on real holidays which are always interesting. You can also dig for fossils, which for some reason feels more like digging up the remains of your animal neighbors’ victims, but maybe that’s just me.

But this game is called Animal Crossing: City Folk , so I was pumped to find I could just hop the bus to the city. Expecting a bustling metropolis of activity and excitement, I was sorely disappointed to find it’s just a town square with stores where you can (get this) buy more stuff! I realized then this game’s sole purpose appears to be promoting capitalism and materialism.

So as our character took the long ride home back to his lonely home, filled with material goods meant to fill some void in his virtual life, our son turns to me and says, “I’m bored”. So we searched for a more traditional form of entertainment with more wholesome values, dug through our stash of board games, and bust open Monopoly.

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Website for More Details: Amazon

Rockin’ It Out With Wii Music

When our copy of Wii Music arrived, we were a bit skeptical. Based on the summary, the game lets you play a bunch of virtual musical instruments by waving around your Wii remote and pressing buttons. I’ll be honest and say that did not sound very satisfying on paper. However, after countless jam sessions, hand bell performances, symphonies, and music video recording, I can tell you that this game is incredible.

Unlike most games, there is no set path and there is no right or wrong way to experience Wii Music. The game is more of a tool to allow your kids (and you) to understand music theory and foster their musical creativity. This is not done through the sadistic exercises that piano teacher from your childhood employed. Rather, the game introduces you to the basic mechanics of the various instruments and underlying concepts of music and sets you on your way.

You start with about two dozen different instruments to try. As you progress through the additional lessons, games, and challenges offered, you unlock more. This process is extremely satisfying because of not only the sheer number the game offers in total (a whopping 60!), but also their variety and humor. This is a fantastic way to introduce you children to instruments they would never have the opportunity to experience otherwise. Sure, there are the expected standards like a drum set, piano, violin, trumpet and guitar, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Ever played the djembe or taiko drums? Rocked out with a shamisen or sitar? Maybe strummed a dandy on the jaw harp? Neither had I until Wii Music. For some real laughs, you can “play” a dog or cat suit (your Mii barks or meows while dress in full costume), lay down some dope beats with your DJ turntables or beat-boxing, or just go nuts as a cheerleader yelling and shaking your pom-poms. There is enough variety here to keep your family smiling for hours.

Getting to the actual music, the main mode is the “jam sessions” where you can choose your role in the band (melody, percussion, bass, etc) and play your heart out to dozens of songs from the elementary “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to some pop and rock classics like “Mr. Postman” or “Material Girl”. Your kids are not scored, graded, or judged like other music games like Guitar Hero. They are free to play however they like, in whatever style they like. They don’t have to worry about the notes they play, as the game does a surprisingly intelligent job of deciding that for them. To get a great performance, it’s all about the timing, rhythm, and the gusto with which they play.

The lessons mode does a fantastic job of gradually teaching them more advanced concepts of musical theory. It demonstrates how you can play the same song in different styles and how the mood of a song can change from start to finish. This serves as a great teaching tool and make the game more engaging by enabling your kids to play the same songs it an endless variety of ways. You can see what I mean in this video:

There are other modes such as music videos, hand bell performances, music quizzes (another great teaching tool), and our favorite, conductor. Conductor allows you to take control over a symphony or choir who follow your lead through a number of rousing classical numbers. Depending on the speed and tempo of your movements, the musicians will play faster, slower, louder, or softer. This is one mode that does score you and leads to some great competition. If you conduct with robot-like precision, you will not get as high of a score as you might think. You are awarded for creativity and the personality you inject into the performance.

Words can only go so far in describing what playing Wii Music is like, so check out this video and then get your copy!

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99

Website For More Details: Wii Music (Amazon)